The GRACE Research Zambia Project on Mobile Cellular Phone Service Provision and the Advancement of Women in Zambia is a sub project of the overall Gender Research in Africa into ICT for Empowerment GRACE. The Project comprises 15 subprojects, reflecting 14 research sites in 12 countries. The 2-year project is being implemented by the International Development Research Center- Canada and the Research for the Future- South Africa.
Until recently Cell phone usage in Zambia was very limited with coverage only in urban areas. Three companies now provide the service and there has been a growth in its usage. There are more than 1,000,000 users of mobile cellular phones in the country; the service can be accessed across the country, translating to access to phone services where infrastructure for conventional telephone lines has not been built. People in remote areas are now within reach.
The general aim of the Zambia project is to explore how the Provision of Cell Phone Services affects the advancement of women in Zambia by examining the experiences of cell phone service providers, policy makers and women’s empowerment organizations.
The knowledge construction process informing the research is central to the results. In order to achieve a sense of women’s realities, the researcher designs a methodology grounded in the enhancement of critical reflexivity towards self and others and their creativity. The research questions and methodologies are grounded in the principles of action research. Emphasis is on qualitative research techniques and Appreciative inquiry.
The on-going project will contribute to debates focusing on women’s empowerment and ICTs through finding its own understandings of what “empowerment” and “gender” may mean in multiple African ICT contexts. The lessons learnt will be shared with policy makers and educators in the form of contextualized and local-specific recommendations.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The Research process is nearing its final stages and the results continue to form a pattern that suggests many possibilities for constructive uses of ICTs for the benefit of women and the need for policy intervention to regulate corporate influence on the quality and the nature of services.